Police warn of thieves 'apple picking'

At least 6 smartphone robberies reported in last 2 weeks

Published On: Jul 23 2013 06:40:20 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 24 2013 04:51:37 PM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

Madison police are warning if you walk around with a smartphone, you may want to keep it hidden.

At least six robberies or thefts now known as "apple picking" have been reported in the last two weeks. It's a crime that's affecting young and old and is now happening in more than one part of the city.

Criminals look for people with their smartphones out, jump out of a car and rob them, some injuring the victim in the process.

It happened to UW football player Tanner McEvoy on Wisconsin Avenue early Sunday morning, and then to a 10-year-old boy on the west side in broad daylight Monday at 2:30 p.m. Jesse Drake was checking in with his mom on his dad's iPhone while walking home from swimming lessons, when a car with two men pulled up beside him.

"I heard a car door open and somebody ran out and grabbed the phone and kept yelling 'Gimme it! Gimme it!'" said Drake. "He was looking around and it was right in front of somebody's house, and then he started grabbing my arm and twisting it so I let go."

Jesse said he turned the phone off because he knew his dad had a pass code installed, hoping the robbers wouldn't be able to use the phone even though they'd taken it.

Police met Tuesday to discuss the response to the crimes, but in the meantime are advising people to put their phones away.

"Certainly I think people wouldn't walk down the street with $400 to $600 in cash in their hands and basically that's what this is," said Joel DeSpain with the Madison Police Department. "The criminals see this as worth a lot of money to them in the secondhand market."

That lesson isn't lost on the Drakes.

"In living in the city I know that you don't flash your property and in talking to my son I don't think that's what he was doing," said John Drake, Jesse's father. "But I would urge him from now on to be certain to have it put away."

The phone given to him for emergencies is now gone and Jesse Drake has a message for the community.

"I want people to know that people should be safe in their own neighborhood," said Drake. "I don't think this should happen even if it's a block away [from your house] or two blocks away. This shouldn't happen anywhere."

Police say this could be the same people perpetrating crimes, but also may not be. They caution that the crimes happen fast and some victims have even been hit in the head, so good descriptions have been hard to come by.

If you do have any information about the latest crimes, you're asked to call Madison police.